The first movie I ever saw that didn’t have a happy ending was the 1981 film Gas, starring Donald Sutherland, Howie Mandel, Helen Shaver and Sterling Hayden. I’ve forgotten all of the details of the plot but that Donald Sutherland played a deranged helicopter pilot, and that a gas station blew up at some point.
But I do remember that it didn’t have a happy ending, which was then and still is unusual for a Hollywood movie: about the only time you hear of movies not having a happy ending is when the version with no happy ending returns from the focus groups to get retooled with a new ending.
Tonight, after walking 6 blocks through a blizzard, I saw another one: Beyond Borders, the Angelina Jolie picture described as “an epic tale of the turbulent romance between two star-crossed lovers set against the backdrop of the world’s most dangerous hot spots.”
The movie has some gripping scenes (of “the world’s hot spots”), a sometimes interesting but mostly over-acted performance from Clive Owen, and a performance from Angelina Jolie that is either brilliantly ironic, or utterly embarassing. Mostly, though, it lacks any sort of character development (i.e. we are left with little understanding of why the “turbulent romance between two star-crossed lovers” like each other, and when (or whether) they actually got to spend any time together to find out), a plot the integrity of which didn’t survive the edit process, and a powerful, emotional social message that is all but completely diluted by movie’s end.
But it doesn’t have a happy ending, which, if nothing else, is brave. And probably explains why the film was playing at City Cinema and not the popcornoplex up the road.
Take the $10 you would spend on the tickets and send it to Oxfam instead. Then go home and have your own turbulent romance. The world will be a better place than if you saw the movie.